The summer holidays are here, which for many means a juggling of work and childcare, entertaining bored kids whilst trying to maintain a job, cook, shop, wash, think, breathe....
So how do we find the balance between looking after our family and looking after ourselves, especially when the time we have is stretched even further during the school holidays? Here are a few things I try my best to do so that I can truly enjoy the precious time I have with the people I love without feeling stressed!
Put the phone/laptop down! This is easier said than done, especially when you are running your own business. Children learn by example and it has been proven time and again that screen time has a negative impact on them. It's also a very easy way to get distracted with something that really isn't important, like checking our facebook feeds! So when we are with the kids / family / friends, make sure we really are with them 100%.
Set time aside to do something fun. It seems like a bit of a shame that we need to schedule time out of our busy lives to enjoy with loved ones. However, if we can set time aside then we don't feel guilty about the fact that we aren't doing something else (like working) because we have already dedicated the time to doing something fun. That old 'work/life balance' thing comes into play here, but it is important. Perhaps if it's in the diary it's easy to stick to?
Be present. The previous two both relate to us being present in what we are doing, being mindful. To practice mindfulness we don't always have to be sitting cross-legged in a quite room focusing on our breath. We can be mindful in everything we do by bringing our awareness to the now, which helps us to fully enjoy the moment. When we are with people we love, whether it's kids, partners, friends, family, actually being present with them is so important. If our mind is elsewhere we are not making the most of that time, and the people we are with can sense it. It can be harder to connect and often this leaves us feeling unsatisfied.
Make time for ourselves. In my experience, when I don't look after myself I have nothing to give out to others. Running on empty leads to tension, stress, snappiness and ultimately an unhappy family which makes me sad! So whilst it is important to put time aside to do fun family activities, it is also important to set aside the time for an evening jog, a yoga class, a quiet cup of tea, a long bath... whatever you enjoy.
Don't expect too much from yourself. Practice Ahimsa - non-harming - by being kind to yourself rather than being hard on yourself! Often the biggest expectations are the ones we put on ourselves. Sometimes we need to do our best, but sometimes we need to do what's just good enough, because this is still enough. So maybe, whilst we are being amazing parents during the school holidays we won't be winning best employee of the month, but that's ok!
Share the things you love with the people you love. If you love doing yoga and you are struggling to find the time to do it because you are looking after everyone else, why not get them doing yoga too? Sharing activities that we enjoy with others is a great way to strengthen bonds, form new connections and common ground.
....on that note, I thought I'd share a few partner yoga practices with you. These are great to try with the kids and a brilliant way to create a bit of light-hearted calm.
Partner chair pose (utkatasana) - stand facing your partner and hold their right hand with your right hand. Both bend your knees and lean back so that you are pulling slightly on each other's arms. Lift your left arm and bring it behind you, turning towards the arm as you come into a twist. If your partner is a lot smaller than you, let them lean out as you stay more upright to support them, otherwise you can both lean out and twist.
Lizard on a rock - come to a childs pose (balasana) with your knees together. Let your partner bring their back against yours as they lie over you. Their legs may be bent or straight, feet on the ground for support. Allow them to release into a backbend as they drape over your back, letting their hands to hang. Depending on the size of your partner, you may be able to swap positions.
Seated forward fold (paschimotanasana) - sit facing each other, with your legs straight and the soles of your feet against your partners. Bend your knees slightly and take hold of your partner's hands. Gently lean back, drawing them into a forward fold over their straight legs. Check in to make sure it isn't hurting.
Back to back breathing - sit comfortably with your back against your partner's. Close your eyes and focus on the feeling of your back against theirs. Notice how your rib-cages move as you breathe in and out. Can you feel when your partner is breathing in and out? See if you can synchronise your breathing for a few moments, tuning in to each other's breath.